Gruden, Redskins not running away from ground game problems

The Washington Redskins spent a chunk of their return to Richmond focused on a running game that struggled in the preseason opener.

The Washington Redskins had a rather unsuccessful night running the football in their preseason debut against the Atlanta Falcons Thursday. Washington only tallied 79 yards rushing and 71 of those yards were gained in the second half. For a team with an extremely unproven backfield, that's not a good sign at all. So in the team's first practice since returning to Richmond, they focused heavily on their run game.

"We worked on it [run game] good today," head coach Jay Gruden said following Saturday's practic. "I think we had 12 straight runs today in a period, but we’re going to keep working on it."

In terms of the regular season, time is on the Redskins side. Washington hosts the New York Jets next Saturday.

"We’re not going to panic after the first preseason game, but we also understand that these games, you are what you are based on what you put on the tape," Gruden continued. "We have got to make sure we continue to work on it and get better at it – that’s all you can do. Our backs have got to continue to see it, but we have got to give them more opportunities." 

Washington plans to start the season with second-year back Matt Jones as their lead option. Jones only had two carries against the Falcons for 1-yard, which isn't enough to form much of an opinion. However, he had a roller-coaster of a rookie season and needs more preseason work. The University of Florida product has much to work on and needs to find his rhythm prior to Washington's season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"With Matt [Jones], it would be nice to get him two, three, four carries in a row to get a rhythm going and see how he does then," Gruden said. "That will be our intent next week – to try to get him going – and see how he does.”

Beyond Jones and Chris Thompson, the Redskins need to sort out their backup RB slots. Keith MarshallRobert Kelley and Mack Brown remain in a tight battle for possibly one slot.

In the Redskins' defense, Thursday was their first time playing against another team since January 10th and they did so without game-planning. Washington saw some defensive fronts they didn't expect from the Falcons, which could've factored in their lack of success. But that's what preseason is all about and Gruden understands that none of it matters -- the run game must improve. 

“A couple times we ran a draw into a loaded box and it’s one guy that’s unblocked and the guy made the tackle for a gain of three," Gruden said. There’s a couple issues where we mis-targeted our runs and that’s a tough deal. Atlanta gave us a different defense and, quite frankly, we didn’t spend a whole lot of time game-planning."

Regardless, the Redskins must improve and sooner than later. 

"Still no excuse," Gruden stated. "We’ve seen enough of this stuff where we should be able to count in our sleep who we’re going to. We just mis-targeted and backs might have missed a cut. Like I said before, many, many times, the running game takes all 10 guys, 11 guys for this to be successful. ...We’re going to keep with it, man. I feel very positive that we are going to have a very successful running team.”

Based on last season and the preseason opener, that sounds optimistic. Of course, optimism is what the preseason is all about.

You can find Emmanual on Twitter @manny_benton.

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